In a world that is increasingly focused on growth, one topic that always crops up when we talk about laboratory efficiency is turnaround time (TAT). But is it simply a question of being able to test faster?
We spoke to Associate Director, Mark Dilbeck from Eurofins about current challenges and trends in the laboratory and discussed how automated laboratory solutions such as the recently launched Kjeltec™ 9, can minimize the need for skilled labor and free up operators to do other tasks.
“I would say that testing faster is not the point. I think getting good quality results in and meeting the documented TAT time frame is more important. If you try and go too fast. I think you're going to run into more problems. So faster, no. But meeting, your target demands is very important.” According to Mark Dilbeck, TAT is all about growing your business, staying competitive and being able to deliver a good product on time and in this context being reliable is key. “Clients are looking for the results in that time frame, otherwise there's a possibility that they could go elsewhere.”
It is commonly known that consumers today have become increasingly aware of food safety, food authenticity and nutritional value. In Mark Dilbeck’s experience this trend doesn’t directly impact day to day work in the laboratory but is something that food producers are obviously very concerned with. Being able to deliver reliable results, on time is an essential part of the services offered to food producers by laboratories such as Eurofins. “As long as they get the results on time, they're reliable and they can deliver what they need for their clients,” he explains.
Automated operations are the way forward
Since Covid, staff shortage has been a challenge that has impacted many laboratories. With laboratory services being heavily reliant on complex wet chemistry processes, requiring a lot of resources from highly trained operators, staff issues make daily operations very vulnerable.
“Hiring people has been very hard, so the Kjeltec™ 9 Autosampler has opened our eyes a little bit to the potential of, just kind of setting it and forgetting it, and using those technicians in the other areas.” Thankfully, the staff shortage problem has improved in 2022 but having the flexibility to move people around is a significant improvement, explains Mark Dilbeck.
In a manual set-up, if customers are requiring more detailed testing such as a vitamin test that can take four or five days, this takes time and resources from standard tests. “If our technicians aren't working on vitamins and they're running proteins, then vitamins get left behind. That's just one example. But with the Kjeltec 9 Autosampler, we're able to, just put a set on and then that person can go and run vitamins. So now, all our tests will be done on time."